Should the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Place Running Back Doug Martin on Injured Reserve?
By Leo Howell
Oct 13, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Philadelphia Eagles inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks (95) and defensive end Vinny Curry (75) tackle Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-20. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Before getting injured on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, Doug Martin was having a disappointing year compared to his impressive rookie season in 2012. And while it’s easy to blame Martin for the lacking statistics, the lack of a passing game and poor blocking from the offensive line have also contributed to his struggles.
But now that he’s hurt, and reportedly out for the season, it makes sense to shut him down and regroup for 2014 with a healthy Martin, right?
A torn labrum is a severe injury which will likely eventually require surgery, according to injury expert Dave Siebert.
So what is the official stance of the Bucs on this topic?
This should come as no surprise, considering how Martin has been used so far in 2013. Despite leaving the Atlanta game early, Martin leads in the NFL in carries per game at just over 21 rushing attempts per contest.
Sep 29, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Arizona Cardinals strong safety Yeremiah Bell (37) tackles Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Arizona Cardinals defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
But those carries were only good enough to get the Tampa Bay offense to 19th in yards per carry and 20th in yards per game in on the ground. So in other words, a talented runner was being pounded into the ground with a poor offensive line and no passing game to help him out.
Martin fought and clawed for every yard he gained this season, often encountering defenders in the backfield and making excellent moves just to extend the play into a short gain. He rarely ran to the sideline, meaning every almost touch he took this year ended in a hit from the opponents.
He proved that he’s still the same fully capable runner we saw in 2012, but that the Tampa Bay offense simply isn’t good enough to sustain a good running game at the moment. So why rush him back and put him through pain and discomfort while delaying surgery?
Martin is the future of the franchise at running back, and he should be placed on injured reserve immediately. This season is lost, with no hope of success at 0-6. Playing an injured Doug Martin on a losing team with no hope of a playoff berth is irresponsible, and potentially harmful to Martin’s future with the team.
Mike James has shown promise as a runner, and giving him a trial run this year would benefit the team long-term as well. If James is a capable running back, the Bucs would have a wealth of talent in the backfield and feel confident with their depth chart at the position heading into next year.
But Greg Schiano knows his future with the team depends on finding some wins to salvage this lost season and proving he can turn things around. So he will hold onto hope that Martin can return and help the team win later this season.
That’s not what’s best for Doug Martin or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which is why this discussion almost needs to include the possibility of firing Schiano so there’s no temptation to rush back a star player from injury. There is a clear conflict of interest between the team and Schiano surrounding the health of a player, which means a decision must be made sooner than later to serve the best interest of the franchise, and not the lame duck head coach.